“The Intern,” the newest film directed by Nancy Meyers, opens on Sept. 24 and centers on a retiree who works as an intern at a fashion company run by a young woman.
The film stars Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway and those who know Ms. Meyers best from her past hits like “It’s Complicated,” which stars Meryl Streep as a woman romantically involved with characters played by Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, and “What Women Want,” which stars Mel Gibson as a man who falls in love with his co-worker (Helen Hunt), may be surprised by the platonic relationship at the center of the film.
But Meyers, who also wrote “Intern," “Complicated” and the romantic comedies “The Holiday,” and “Something’s Gotta Give,” recently said she didn’t want to write another romantic relationship. “I felt sort of done with the romantic story,” she said. “It just wasn’t what I was feeling. And I felt I’d covered that subject pretty well: to fall in love, and out of love, and be divorced, be [‘Holiday’ star] Cameron Diaz’s age, or be Meryl Streep’s age. So I thought, A relationship between a man and a woman that’s not romantic, this is interesting. I’ve never done that.”
As Meyers looks at a non-romantic relationship in her movie, it’s been several years since a romantic comedy became a huge hit at the box office. The newest film to be in the top 10 of the highest-grossing romantic comedies of all time domestically is 2009’s “The Proposal.” 2005’s “Hitch,” 2007’s “Knocked Up,” and 2008’s “Sex and the City” (which also came with viewers’ pre-awareness of the TV show) are also on there. But otherwise, all the other movies are clustered during the 1990s or the beginning of the 2000s.
However, we are coming off a summer where a traditional romantic comedy just became a hit. Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck,” which she starred in and wrote, was one of the success stories of the summer. But a lot of films in the genre have missed recently rather than hit. This year’s “The Longest Ride” and “Aloha” didn’t do well financially, nor did 2014’s “That Awkward Moment,” “About Last Night,” “Endless Love,” “Blended,” and “Think Like a Man Too.”
Perhaps audiences are looking for something different from the genre. Romantic comedy films that have done well recently all have a slight twist on the genre. (As Meyers herself noted, in “Trainwreck,” “[director Judd Apatow] and Amy turned it on its ear by switching the roles – he falls in love, she can’t commit.”) In “Proposal,” Ryan Reynolds’ character falls in love with his boss, played by Sandra Bullock, and the two get engaged at the beginning of the film, before they’re in love. 2005’s “Hitch” stars Will Smith as a coach to men in relationships who then finds he can’t conduct himself well when he’s involved in a relationship of his own.
With Meyers seemingly taking a break from the genre, if romantic comedies will get made over the next few years, others will have to take up the slack.